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California Democrats jel under Party Chair Rusty Hicks

Trump’s negativity will spur Democratic activism

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Out Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez and California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks at a July 30 debate watch party (Photo courtesy LACDP)

If the country wasn’t reeling from three mass shootings in a row, the news out of Orange County, California might be more stunning. The bastion of rock-ribbed red conservative Republicanism and cruel anti-LGBTQ Christian zealots who preached that AIDS was God’s revenge against homosexuals has officially turned blue.

According to statistics released Aug. 7 by the county Registrar of Voters, Orange County has 547,458 registered Democrats, compared to 547,369 registered Republicans. No Party Preference voters swelled to 440,770 or just over 27 % of voters behind the once impenetrable Orange Curtain.

Since last February, the California GOP has officially been a third party, according to the California Sec. of State, with 23.6% of registered voters compared to 43.1% Democrats and 28.3% No Party Preference.

Democrats attribute the Orange County sea change to “changing demographics, aggressive recruitment efforts and President Trump,” the Los Angeles Times reports, while Republicans blame the numbers on GOP flight from “high housing costs, poor schools and lackluster job opportunities.”

This is the region where Democrats flipped four of the House seats Speaker Nancy Pelosi fears may flip back if 2020 election politics focus on impeaching Donald Trump. Nonetheless, Reps. Katie Hill and Harley Rouda endorsed holding impeachment hearings.

Another 2020 drama is playing out between the White House, Republican National Committee, and the state GOP who filed two lawsuits Aug. 6 against California Gov. Newsom and Secretary of State Alex Padilla to block a new law requiring presidential candidates, including Trump, to release their tax returns in order to qualify for the March 3, 2020 primary ballot. Meanwhile, in California’s 22nd Congressional District, Trump ally Rep. Devin Nunes has filed a defamation lawsuit against his own constituents. In Hollywood this is called “jumping the shark.”

California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks, the party’s new steward elected to mend internal fences and build on the progressive victories of 2018, is off to a good start. He was lauded last June for creating a task force, which included Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur, to address misconduct and harassment within the party.

Hicks is keenly aware of his responsibilities.

“We are at a moment in our history in which we have a current occupant in the White House that is not just tolerating white supremacy but is perpetuating and promoting white supremacy,” Hicks told the Los Angeles Blade by phone Aug. 6. “White nationalism is something that we, as a society, and certainly as the California Democratic Party—it’s particularly important that we stand up, step up, and speak out against the hate and the rhetoric that we’re seeing. Hate and rhetoric is turning into hateful action on so many different fronts.”

The CDP, Hicks says, is committed to “ensuring that voices that are reflective of the diversity, the strength of our state and of our party, are up front and center.”

But with identifiable openly LGBTQ leaders such as former chair Eric Bauman now out of the picture, how is the LGBTQ community represented within the top CDP structure?

“We have just recently appointed our standing committees within the party. These are the nine committees that carry out the work of the party. We had a goal of ensuring that a large number of those were from the LGBTQ community,” Hicks says. “Today, 20% of our appointees to standing committees are members of the LGBTQ community; 60% are delegates and party activists of color; a large number of young leaders—more than 20% are under the age of 35. I’m really proud of the inclusivity and the diversity that we’re seeing in some of our party’s decision-making body.”

Hicks, a straight white ally who marched in the LA Pride Parade, says he is monitoring what is happening in Modesto as plans unfold for a white Straight Pride rally. “We’re certainly coordinating with our partners on the ground to ensure that we push back against events like this,” he says, though no specific action plans have yet been developed.

Modesto is in the 10th Congressional District that Democrat Josh Harder took from Republican Jeff Denham in a close 2018 race. Harder’s seat is considered vulnerable. But Hicks promises to work hard to retain that seat and the other 2018 seats that flipped the House for the Democrats.

We’re certainly going to ensure that we protect and preserve the gains of 2018 by harnessing the power, the energy that brought us those victories, like Congressman Harder’s, Congressman Cox, the four members in Orange County, one right here in Los Angeles,” says Hicks. “There was a lot of activism in 2018. I know with the negative energy coming out of the White House, I’m certain that activists on the ground are prepared to do the hard, gritty, house-to-house work that it takes to be successful, to actually communicate with your family, and friends, and neighbors about why protecting and preserving this seat is so incredibly important at this particular moment in our history. Just as we did in 2018, we’re prepared to hold that seat in 2020 and beyond.”

  Hicks is also keenly aware of the importance of LGBTQ voters and activists.

“You could look from one campaign to the other in the success of Democratic candidates—the LGBTQ community is an important part of that victory and that path to victory, not just in raw votes on election day, but on the organizing, plan, and path to get to Election Day, be it field organizing capacity, financial resources, the ability to communicate with a large number of voters within the LGBTQ community,” says Hicks. The LGBTQ community “is an important community for our long-term success.”

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Proud Boys disrupting a California Pride drag show get pepper sprayed

“There was an altercation, obviously people are here & are upset about the bar having their Pride event,” said the deputy police chief

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Woodland police officers after Proud Boys disrupt drag show (Screenshot KCRA 3 News)

WOODLAND, Ca. – An end of Pride month drag show in this suburban city Northwest of Sacramento was disrupted by Proud Boys at the The Mojo Lounge bar and restaurant in the downtown business district.

As the group attempted to gain access to the establishment, a now viral video by local ABC10 television reporter Luke Cleary showed them and the near-by police officers getting pepper-sprayed by an unseen person inside the bar.

Screams of pain erupted along with one Proud Boy who can be heard shouting “fuck you podophile motherfuckers,” after being sprayed. Woodland police officers can also be seen retreating wiping their eyes from the effects of the irritant self-defensive spray weapon.

Another reporter, Lee Anne Denyer from NBC News Sacramento affiliate KCRA 3 noted that the event, which was initially advertised as an an all-ages Drag Show by the bar was at first postponed and then scaled back.

Denyer posted video that showed the heavy law enforcement presence after the Proud Boys attempted to storm the restaurant demanding to know how many children were in attendance at the show.

“There was kind of rumors that things were brewing on main street but there was obviously a presence by the Woodland Police Department so that made us feel more comfortable. Then it escalated, it escalated pretty quickly,” Julie Ramos, who attended the event, told KCRA. “This really was a positive event and everyone was having a great time. So I think most people were angry but I would say resilient.”

Woodland Police Department, Woodland, California

“There was an altercation, obviously people are here and are upset about the bar having their Pride event,” Anthony Cucchi, the deputy chief of the Woodland Police Department told KCRA. “We tried to intervene as quickly as we could, it was a pretty chaotic scene. Our main priority was to get a safe scene and then make sure anybody that needed help got the help that they needed. We will work on the investigation.”

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Gun industry advertising to kids & restricting ghost guns Calif. laws signed

Latest nation-leading action to protect Californians from gun violence adds to decades of California leadership on gun safety

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California Governor Gavin Newsom on gun adverts targeting minors (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed legislation to take on the gun industry and get more guns off California streets. Gun violence is the leading cause of death among children in the U.S. 

“From our schools to our parks to our homes, our kids deserve to be safe – in California, we’re making that a reality. As the Supreme Court rolls back important gun safety protections and states across the country treat gun violence as inevitable, California is doubling down on commonsense gun safety measures that save lives,” said Newsom. “The lives of our kids are at stake and we’re putting everything on the table to respond to this crisis.”

The legislation signed Thursday directly targets the gun lobby and manufacturers.

Governor Newsom signs gun safety legislation June 30, 2022 (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

Governor Newsom signed AB 2571, prohibiting marketing of firearms to minors following recent efforts by the gun industry to appeal to minors, like Wee 1 Tactical advertising the sale of a JR-15, an AR-15 meant for kids, complete with cartoon child skulls with pacifiers. 

“Guns are not toys – they are deadly weapons,” said Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda). “California has some of the strongest gun laws in the country and it is unconscionable that we still allow advertising weapons of war to our children. Our kids have a right to live long, happy lives, free of gun violence.”

Also Thursday, the Governor signed AB 1621, which further restricts ghost guns – firearms that are intentionally made untraceable – as well as the parts used to build them. Ghost guns have been called an “epidemic” by the Los Angeles Police Department, contributing to more than 100 violent crimes in the City of Los Angeles last year alone.

“Alarmingly, we are finding that more and more, no region or demographic is exempt from gun violence – our hospitals, grocery stores, schools, and even places of worship, are no longer safe. The proliferation of ghost guns, which are intentionally untraceable weapons to evade law enforcement, has only worsened the issue,” said Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson). “Following the signing of AB 1621 into law, I applaud Governor Gavin Newsom for his leadership and unwavering commitment to eradicate the rampant wildfire of gun violence currently ravaging our streets and safe-havens.”

Earlier this month, Newsom announced a record $156 million in gun violence prevention grants provided as part of the California Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program (CalVIP). The funding will support 79 cities and nonprofit organizations that are implementing anti-violence programs suited to the unique needs of their local communities.

California’s gun safety policies save lives and provide a national model for other states to follow. According to the Giffords Law Center, in 2021, California was ranked as the top state in the nation for gun safety. As California strengthened its gun laws, the state saw a gun death rate 37 percent lower than the national average. Meanwhile, other states such as Florida and Texas, with lax gun regulations, saw double-digit increases in the rate of gun deaths. As a result of the actions taken by California, the state has cut its gun death rate in half and Californians are 25 percent less likely to die in a mass shooting compared to people in other states.  

A recent study from the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis found that California’s red flag law was used to stop 58 threatened mass shootings.

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Newsom signs state budget gives tax refunds to millions of taxpayers

Provides direct tax refunds for 23 million Californians to address rising costs and tackles the state’s most pressing needs

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Governor Gavin Newsom signs the 2022 budget bills package. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today signed a $308 billion state budget that provides direct tax refunds for 23 million Californians to help address rising costs, tackles the state’s most pressing needs, builds state reserves, and invests in California’s future.

The new budget is the product of a windfall of tax revenues from California’s highest earners and is aimed at softening the sting of high fuel prices and the cost of living. It includes $9.5 billion in gas refunds, $1.4 billion in utility payment assistance, expanded tax credits and $1.5 billion for unemployment insurance.

The Los Angeles Times reported that economists warn of an economic downturn that could diminish future state tax revenues, meaning that next year’s budget could be far less generous to Californians struggling with the state’s high housing prices and other day-to-day expenses.

In a press release, Newson’s office outlined the details of the budgetary legislative packages:

Here are the top 10 things you need to know about the budget:

1. “Cha-ching! You just received a deposit.”

Global inflation. Rising costs. It’s hard out there and we know it. So, we’re giving you $9.5 billion back. MILLIONS of Californians– 23 million to be exact – will benefit from up to $1,050, as soon as October! See if you qualify on the new Middle-Class Tax Refund calculator here.

2.  Don’t go into crippling debt over a hospital visit

Want health care? We’re now the FIRST and ONLY state in the nation that offers universal access to health care coverage, regardless of your immigration status. Want insulin? California will be producing our own insulin to make it cheaper and more affordable for everyone.

3. A real “Pro-life” agenda

Fun fact – California is actually a pro-life state. We’re protecting reproductive freedoms and supporting Californians throughout their lives. In this budget, we’re investing over $200 million in reproductive care. We’re making a company’s willingness to move OUT of anti-choice states and TO the reproductive freedom state of California a factor in awarding state business tax credits. But we’re not stopping at reproductive care. We’re investing in a child’s entire lifespan. From birth to college and beyond. That means universal preschool, free school meals, expanded before and after school programs, more counselors for our schools, free community college, the list goes on.

4. Climate change is real y’all

While SCOTUS is kneecapping the federal EPA’s ability to fight climate change, California is making a climate commitment on the scale of what other countries are spending. Our $53.9 billion in new investments will better protect Californians from the extreme weather that has been impacting our bills, our livelihoods, our farms and our families. We’re investing in fire protection and drought response while forging an oil-free future away from big polluters, and more. Later is too late and we will act now so our kids and grandkids have a brighter, cleaner future.

5. Getting people into housing & shelter and off the streets

We are making major investments to address California’s homelessness crisis by getting people into housing & shelter. We have $2.2 billion for encampment resolutions around the state and new bridge housing to support people going through CARE Court – tens of thousands of people with a safe roof over their head and the mental health and substance use help many desperately need.

6. Keeping the lights on

California has an energy plan. Drought is causing lower energy production. Extreme heat is causing increased energy demand. Wildfires threaten energy infrastructure. So, we’re investing $4.3 BILLION to help keep the lights on this summer, invest in clean and reliable energy infrastructure, help with your energy bills, accelerate our transition to clean energy and so much more. We’re building the energy system of the future.

7. A real public safety plan

Californians should always feel safe — whether that’s at home, at the park, or at work. California is tackling the root causes of crime and getting guns and drugs off our streets. The state is launching the largest gun buyback program in the nation, funding a permanent Smash and Grab Enforcement Unit to fight retail theft, and investing $30 million to support the National Guard’s drug interdiction efforts, targeting transnational criminal organizations.

8. Literally transforming education in our state

It’s no longer K-12, it’s Pre-K -16. We are investing a – truly – historic $170 billion to continue our transformation of education in California. From our master plan for early learning to free community college, education has never been more accessible in our state. NEW this year, we have $7.9 billion to help with learning recovery, more investments in higher education, an additional $2 billion for affordable student housing (on top of last year’s $2 billion), and $3.5 billion that schools can use on arts, music, and more.

9. Getting our kids help with mental health

After these last few years, everyone knows we are experiencing a mental health crisis and California is taking it seriously. We’re investing big in behavioral health for adults and our kids. This year, there’s new urgent funding for wellness support programs, funding for youth suicide reporting and prevention, and more.

10. Rebuilding California

Railroads. Highways. Streets. We’re investing in infrastructure! This budget includes a $14.8 BILLION transportation infrastructure investment. That means money for rail and transit projects, climate adaptation projects, walking and bicycling projects, high-speed rail, our ports, and more. AND we’re investing to speed up our transition to zero-emission vehicles. Beep beep!

“In the face of new challenges and uncertainties, we’re providing over $17 billion in relief to help families make ends meet, and doubling down on our investments to keep building the California Dream on a strong fiscal foundation,” said Governor Newsom. “This budget invests in our core values at a pivotal moment, safeguarding women’s right to choose, expanding health care access to all and supporting the most vulnerable among us while shoring up our future with funds to combat the climate crisis, bolster our energy grid, transform our schools and protect communities. Building a better future for all, we’ll continue to model what progressive and responsible governance can look like, the California way.”

Amid record rates of inflation and economic uncertainty on the horizon, the budget continues to build resiliency with $37.2 billion in budgetary reserves and 93 percent of the discretionary surplus allocated for one-time projects.

Additional details include:

$17 Billion Inflation Relief Package

$9.5 Billion for Tax Refunds to Help Address Inflation: The budget provides tax refunds of up to $1,050 for 23 million Californians to help offset rising prices. 

$1.95 Billion for Emergency Rental Assistance: The budget provides additional funds to ensure qualified low-income tenants who requested rental assistance before March 31 get the support they need.

$1.4 Billion to Help Californians Pay Past-Due Utility Bills: Expanding on last year’s utility relief program, the budget provides funds to continue covering past-due electricity and water bills.

$439 Million to Pause the State Sales Tax on Diesel for 12 Months: Bringing relief to the commercial sector and drivers, the budget includes a pause of the General Fund (3.9375 percent rate) portion of the sales tax rate on diesel fuel that will provide an estimated $439 million in relief.

$53.9 Billion California Climate Commitment 

New investments in this year’s budget bring California’s multi-year climate commitment to $53.9 billion to protect Californians from the impacts of climate change, help forge an oil-free future and tackle pollution. 

Drought and Water Resilience: Building on last year’s $5.2 billion commitment to ensure water security for Californians, the budget invests another $2.8 billion for near- and long-term actions to build water resilience, promote conservation and more.

Fighting Wildfires: $2.7 billion investment to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and bolster forest health. These projects include forest thinning, prescribed burns, grazing, reforestation, and fuel breaks.

Accelerating the Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Transition: Building on last year’s unprecedented ZEV package, the budget invests an additional $6.1 billion to create a total $10 billion package to expand ZEV access and affordability and support the build-out of infrastructure across the state.

Bolstering our Energy System: Allocates $4.3 billion to support energy reliability, provides relief to ratepayers, creates strategic energy reserves and accelerates clean energy projects.  Allocates an additional $3.8 billion for clean energy projects to boost affordability and reliability.

$14.8 billion for regional transit, rail and ports projects to support the continued development of clean transportation projects, including California’s first-in-the-nation high-speed rail system and bicycle and pedestrian projects.

Expanding Health Care Access

Health Care Access for All: With this budget, California becomes the first state in the nation to provide universal access to affordable health coverage for lower-income individuals by providing coverage for Californians ages 26 to 49, regardless of immigration status. It also establishes the Office of Health Care Affordability to develop cost targets for the health care industry and impose consequences if they are not met.

Reproductive Health Care: As other states restrict access to this critical care, California is providing more than $200 million for grants and services for reproductive health care providers in order to expand access, improve clinical infrastructure and more to prepare for the expected influx of women from out of state seeking care.

Transforming the Children’s Behavioral Health System: Building on the $1.4 billion investment in last year’s budget to transform California’s behavioral health system for all children, the budget includes an additional $290 million over three years to address urgent needs, including funding for programs that promote well-being and grants to support children and youth at increased risk of suicide and a youth suicide crisis response pilot.

Affordable Insulin: The budget invests $100 million to develop and manufacture low-cost biosimilar insulin products to increase insulin availability and affordability in California.

Confronting Homelessness and the Mental Health Crisis

Additional $3.4 Billion General Fund over two years to build on last year’s $12 billion multi-year investment by continuing progress on expanding behavioral health housing, encampment cleanup grants and support for local government efforts.

Supporting the CARE Court framework to assist people living with untreated mental health and substance abuse disorders, the budget includes funds for state department and Judicial Branch costs associated with the proposal.

Safer Communities

Combatting COVID-19: The budget adds $1.8 billion to continue implementing the state’s SMARTER plan, including more funding to support school testing, increase vaccination rates and more. The budget also invests $300 million General Fund for CDPH and local health jurisdictions to permanently expand the state’s capacity to protect public health and promote health equity.

Tackling Crime: The budget expands CHP’s retail theft task force and includes funding for the Attorney General to prosecute organized retail theft crimes, lead anti-crime task forces throughout the state, and establish a new Fentanyl Enforcement Program. Additionally, the budget expands fentanyl drug interdiction efforts led by the California Military Department.

The inflation relief package builds on Governor Newsom’s nation-leading stimulus package last year to accelerate California’s economic recovery with Golden State Stimulus checks for two out of every three Californians, as well as the largest statewide renter and utility assistance program and small businesses relief program in the country.

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